Communicating Biological Sciences

Ethical and Metaphorical Dimensions

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  • Edited by Brigitte Nerlich, University of Nottingham, UK, Richard Elliott, University of Nottingham, UK and Brendon Larson, University of Waterloo, Canada
  • Recent scandals in the biosciences have highlighted the perils of communicating science leading many observers to ask questions about the pressures on scientists and the media to hype-up claims of scientific breakthroughs. Journalists, science writers and scientists themselves have to report complex and rapidly-developing scientific issues to society, yet work within conceptual and temporal constraints that shape their communication. To date, there has been little reflection on the ethical implications of science writing and science communication in an era of rapid change.

    Communicating Biological Sciences discusses the 'ethics' of science communication in light of recent developments in biotechnology and biomedicine. It focuses on the role of metaphors in the creation of visions and the framing of scientific advances, as well as their impact on patterns of public acceptance and rejection, trust and scepticism. Its rigorous investigation will appeal not only to science writers and scientists, but also to scholars of sociology, science and technology studies, media and journalism.
  • Contents: Preface; Communicating biological sciences; an introduction, Brigitte Nerlich, Richard Elliott and Brendon Larson; Part I Setting the Scene: Issues of Hype, Hubris and Humility in Science Communication and Citizen Participation: How journalism can hide the truth about science, Elmien Wolvaardt; Technologies of humility: citizen participation in governing science, Sheila Jasanoff. Part II Science Communication, Ethics and Framing: Models and Cultural Reality: The ethics of framing science, Matthew C. Nisbet; Bioethical decisions and the public sphere: a cross-cultural perspective, Christoph Rehmann-Sutter; Journalism and society, Toby Murcott; Science communication and ethics – trying to get it right: the Science Media Centre – a case study, Fiona Fox. Part III Science Communication, Metaphors and Practical Realities: Genes, genomes and what to make of them, Jon Turney; A workbench view of science communication and metaphor, Tim Radford; Metaphor contests and contested metaphors: from webs spinning spiders to barcodes on DNA, Stephen Strauss. Part IV Science, Science Communication and Metaphor Analysis: Should scientists advocate? The case of promotional metaphors in environmental science, Brendon Larson; Metaphors as time capsules: their use in biological sciences and the media, Iina Hellsten; Breakthroughs and disasters: the (ethical) use of future-oriented metaphors in science communication, Brigitte Nerlich; Craig Venter and the re-programming of life: how metaphors shape and perform ethical discourses in the media presentation of synthetic biology, Andrew Balmer and Camille Herreman; Epilogue: Blame Francis Bacon: the metaphor of progress and the progress of metaphor in science, Megan Allyse; Index.
  • About the Editor: Brigitte Nerlich is a Professor of Science, Language and Society at the Institute for Science and Society, University of Nottingham, UK; Richard Elliott is a Postgraduate Research Student at the Institute for Science and Society, University of Nottingham, UK; Brendon Larson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo, Canada
  • Reviews: 'Addressing some of the crucial challenges of communicating biology in contemporary societies, this book will be of interest to a variety of audiences – including mass media and STS scholars, science communicators and professional scientists.'
    Massimiano Bucchi, Università di Trento, Italy

    'An invaluable library of practical and timely, yet ageless, science, science policy, societal, cultural, political, and communications insights, presented in a highly usable fashion certain to inform our approach to the wide range of science issues touching, as so many increasingly do, on domestic and international public policy questions.'
    Bud Ward, Editor, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, USA

    '…this book provides a stimulating awakening into one of the challenges facing science writing today…A book that leaves a lasting impression on a reader, in particular one that will actively affect future action, is certainly a worthy read…Contributors to the book include journalists, scientists and literary analysts and thereby insightful perspectives are gained from many sides…It is an eye-opener for a wide audience...'

    '…Brigitte Nerlich and her collaborators have gathered contributions from social scientists, linguists, philosophers, journalists and press officers to focus the analysis of science communication on the ethics of metaphor use…Communicating Biological Sciences enriches the literature with a multitude of perspectives on how metaphors are used by different parties to perform political and ethical functions.'
    Public Understanding of Science